Book: Tut: The Story of my Immortal Life
Author: P. J. Hoover
Age Range: 9-12
The premise of Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life is that when King Tut was fourteen years old, his uncle tried to kill him. A god (Osiris) intervened, and granted Tut immortality. 3000 years later, Tut is living in Washington, DC, attending 8th grade, and living with the god Horus (in the form of a cat) and another immortal named Gil. As the story begins, signs become evident that Tut's evil uncle (also immortal) is nearby, and that a curse on Tut and his uncle is affecting citizens in DC. Tut wants to kill his uncle both to stop the curse and for vengeance. But it's not so easy to kill someone who has been immortal for 3000 years.
Really, that's all you need to know. Either this premise is irresistible to you, or it's not. My 10-year-old self would certainly have fallen into the "irresistible" camp. I think that P. J. Hoover executed this premise well. She clearly did a ton of research about the ancient Egyptians and the mythology surrounding their gods (particularly Set, Isis, and Horus). She sets this research against elements of modern-day middle school, and the combination proves quite entertaining.
Tut is an engaging character. Yes, he has a bit of an ego. He was raised to believe he was the most important person in his country, after all. He has these shabtis (little pottery soldiers) that serve him, and constantly prostrate themselves before him. The shabtis are hilarious, actually. It's a bit implausible, perhaps, that Tut has lived 3000 years and remains at the maturity level of a fourteen-year-old, but of course this makes the book work for the target audience, so we'll have to let that go. Ditto the question of whether one could really retain a red-hot hatred for someone over 3000 years. But Tut does display a certain world-weariness at times that rings true.
Here is Tut's voice:
"Great Osiris, help me. I'd have skipped today if Gil hadn't insisted I come. Just thinking about this whole exhibit was starting to make my skin turn green. Yeah, green. It's this weird, thanks-to-Osiris thing that happens to me when I get nervous. But in my defense, these were the King Tut treasures we were talking about." (Page 33, ARC)
"If I had to be immortal, why couldn't I have been eighteen? Or twenty-one? Why did I have to be fourteen? It was perpetual puberty." (Page 39, ARC)
Being 14 forever is a pretty horrific thought to me as an adult. One more quote:
"We wound our way through the paths, stepping on graves as we went. That whole theory about never walking on someone's grave? It's a bunch of garbage. If graves weren't meant to be stepped on, they wouldn't still be on the ground. Still, with each step I took, my anxiety grew. The cemetery felt like a bucket of creepiness had been dumped on top of it, like ghosts and goblins lurked behind every grave, waiting to jump out at unsuspecting visitors." (Page 187, ARC)
Tut is constantly using expressions like "Great Amun." But he is modern, too, texting and using computers and so on. And he's realistic in his procrastination in terms of homework. I mean, if you were never going to advance to high school, why would you care what you learned in 8th grade? There's a boy named Henry who represents a more regular (albeit geeky) middle school sensibility (including anxiety about school assignments). Henry goes a long way, I think, towards keeping Tut accessible to young readers.
The plotting in Tut is fast-paced and full of kid-friendly elements like hidden tunnels, mysterious artifacts, and poisonous snakes. While the immediate plot wraps up sufficiently, Tut leaves several questions open at the end of the book suggesting that at least one other story about Tut will follow. I hope so. Because the antics of a 14-year-old King Tut in modern-day DC are well worth another visit. Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life is a perfect choice to give to fans of Rick Riordan's books (Greek or Egyptian-themed), or anyone who likes to read about kids running around on their own, getting into danger. I think that Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life is going to do well.
Publisher: Starscape (@MacKidsBooks)
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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